Jet Li stars in the latest film by Director Tsui Hark The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. The film, a 3-D remake of King Hu’s 1967 Dragon Inn and Raymond Lee’s 1992 New Dragon Inn, is considered a wuxia film. The genre wuxia, literally “martial hero,” and films of this genre center on the adventures of martial artists/warriors. Typically, the heroes in Chinese wuxia fiction do not serve a lord, wield military power or belong to the aristocratic class. They are often from the lower social classes of ancient Chinese society and are usually bound by a code of chivalry that requires them to right wrongs, especially when the helpless or the poor are oppressed. The wuxia hero fights for righteousness and seeks to remove an oppressor, redress wrongs, or attain retribution for past misdeeds. This type of character compares with the samurai of Japan, chivalrous knights of medieval Europe and cowboys of the American West.
The film takes place during China’s Ming Dynasty, and the nation is divided into two governing bodies, the West and East Bureaus, who answer to the Emperor. Flying Swords opens with a cool 3-D panning over a shipyard leading to a fortress where we meet the corrupt leader of the West Bureau Wan Yulou (Gordon Liu). Jet Li soon enters the picture as Zhao Huai’an, the leader of a small guerrilla group that monitors and acts against the corrupt activity of the West and East bureaus.
East Bureau leader Yu Huatian (Chen Kun) plots to find and kill outlaw warrior Zhao Huai’an after an incident in the opening scene. However, this does not prove easy since another outlaw is running around posing as Zhao Huai’an. We soon discover who the doppelganger is. The doppelganger first appeared while rescuing a concubine from the emperor. The two are now on the run from Yu Huatian and his army and soon end up hiding at Dragon Gate Inn where the majority of the story and action takes place.
Dragon Gate Inn is known as a “black inn” where many brawls take place and sometimes human flesh is served. A great sandstorm is approaching, and the innkeeper tries to close down the place and move to a safer location, but a group of Yu Huatian’s men arrive and insist on staying in order to track down the concubine. Also staying at the inn are tough Princess Buludu (Guey Lun-Mei) and her Mongol gang, and female warrior Gu Shaotang (Li Yuchun) soon arrives with her crew of bandits, which includes Wind Blade (Chen Kun), who bears a striking resemblance to Yu Huatian.
A sub-plot soon surfaces wherein we learn that the approaching sandstorm only occurs once every 60 years, and when it hits, it will unveil the ruins of an ancient city. Princess Buludu and Gu Shaotang’s respective crews are actually plunderers who anticipate raiding the palace for treasure. Meanwhile, the real Zhao Huai’an (Jet Li) shows up. Plots and characters mingle and swords soon start flying—people start flying, too!
With a gripping storyline, mesmerizing acrobatics, surreal sword-fighting, strong acting, and, of course, 3D effects, this film is definitely one to check out, especially for enthusiasts of wuxia, martial arts, and/or Eastern culture.